If you listen to writers talk, it can seem like they have their own language, and sometimes it takes a while to figure it out. Take beats, for example. Sometimes they refer to dialogue beats, where the speaking character performs an action while talking. This makes it clear to the reader who is saying what. Another kind is storytelling beats, where the plot movement takes a pause and allows tension to be released. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d talk a bit about one of my favorite types of storytelling beats, the kind that makes my fannish heart thump a little quicker – the kiss.
As a kid, I was captivated by A New Hope for many reasons: its characters, the mythology, the Jedi and their lightsabers, and the space battles. The Empire Strikes Back introduced new elements: a villainous Emperor, the wise old Yoda, Lando Calrissian, the Hoth ground battle – and this little thing called romance. With Episode V my infatuation with the galaxy far, far away blossomed into true love. When Tina Fey told Craig Ferguson, “What I took from Star Wars was kind of the Han Solo and Princess Leia relationship story,” I knew exactly what the comedienne was talking about. While the first movie had hinted at romantic potential for the couple, every moment Han and Leia were onscreen in Empire wound the dramatic tension – Would they escape Vader and his minions? Could they even survive the asteroid field? And when were they going to stop the witty retorts and icy glares and finally recognize they were meant to be together?
George Lucas and Irvin Kershner knew there would be high-stakes drama to end the movie, so the big breath – the storytelling beat – had to come earlier. It came by way of a kiss, as Han and Leia’s flight from the Imperials is interwoven with Luke’s time on Dagobah learning to unlock his potential as a Jedi. After that kiss, the tension is back in the plot again, and the film takes the viewer headlong toward the climactic showdowns at Cloud City.
In my mind, the breathless liplock between the golden-hearted smuggler and the Rebel princess is the kiss by which all other Star Wars kisses should be judged. Still, if you ask this fangirl, there have been a few spectacular other ones over the years. So I took a stroll down memory lane and dug up some of my personal favorites.
First Couple of the New Jedi Order
Unlike his sister, Luke Skywalker took a while to find true love – and it came in the arms of a woman who once had been charged with killing him. Mara Jade first appeared in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. Her skills as Palpatine’s personal assassin, the Emperor’s Hand, put Mara on par with Luke in many ways as a warrior and Force-user. Fans of the pairing had to wait seven years for the characters to work past their differences, and it was only toward the end of one of the longest Star Wars novels that the farmboy from Tattooine finally proposed. Even then their future together hung in the balance for a while, so when the couple escaped certain doom there was no way better way to signify to the fans they could let out a sigh of relief than by sealing their union with a kiss. (Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn, page 676)
A Skywalker Steals a Sith Kiss
Have you ever wondered what Luke would be like as a bad boy? Well, Dark Horse’s Legacy comics delivered. Faced with the burden of the famous Jedi name, Cade Skywalker, presumably Luke’s great-grandson, makes some bad life choices. His suffering-soul ways are appealing, though, and you can’t help but root for him. When Cade was captured by the Sith, fans began to fear the worst – that Cade would follow in the footsteps of Anakin Skywalker and embrace the dark side. At one point, Cade falls into the arms of the Sith Hand, Darth Talon, in beautifully drawn artwork that steams up the pages of Legacy #17 and leaves readers wondering if a kiss that passionate can be faked.
If Talon liplocked with Cade is naughty-but-nice, then Anakin Solo and Tahiri Veila represent innocent young love against the backdrop of a galactic invasion. The pair were part of Luke Skywalker’s young Jedi apprentices featured in the New Jedi Order. Their love is apparent from early on in the series, and near the end of Greg Keyes’ Edge of Victory: Rebirth it appears they might not escape the latest predicament they’ve gotten themselves into. Anakin and Tahiri each experience their first kiss, which is sweet and tender – until Jedi Knight Corran Horn shows up to rescue them. Busted! (pages 262-265)
Rogue Leader Gets His Girl
Everyone remembers loyal Wedge, shielding Luke with his X-wing in the Death Star trench run before having to pull out, then returning to fly in the Battles of Hoth and Endor. In the Expanded Universe, he’s got a whole series of books dedicated to his time leading Rogue Squadron and later Wraith Squadron. The nine-book X-wing series is one of my favorites because authors Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston infuse a nice touch of romance into their storytelling, as well as delivering a truly diverse cast. For a while readers wondered if true love might elude Wedge Antilles even as many of the pilots under his command found their own. In time, it became obvious that Iella Wessiri, a long-time friend with her own career as an intelligence operative, should be Wedge’s leading lady. Finally in Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge takes command of his love life, and once the sparks fly it cements one of the Expanded Universe’s favorite power couples. (pages 137-140)
Imperial Ace Proves He’s Got the Right Stuff
If you think Han Solo is the best pilot in the galaxy, Soontir Fel, Imperial ace, might have something to say about that. Class rivals at the Academy, Soontir ranks number two behind Han. But when Solo goes smuggler, Fel becomes the Empire’s new #1 – until he is captured by Rogue Squadron. In the trade paperback X-wing: Rogue Squadron: Blood and Honor, under New Republic questioning Soontir reveals he has married Wedge Antilles’ sister. The tale of his whirlwind romance with Syal Antilles, known to most of the galaxy as the famous holostar Wynssa Starflare, is a nice sidebar in a great series. And there is this kiss in the lake on their honeymoon…
Han and Leia’s kiss in The Empire Strikes Back may be the gold standard, but is there any moment that can rival it? I think so. The New Jedi Order has a six-book arc running from Star by Star to Destiny’s Way that shows their daughter, Jaina Solo, struggling with her role as Jedi and heir to the Skywalker destiny. After her brother Anakin dies and her twin Jacen is captured, Jaina sees a future that looks only bleak and lonely and she is tempted by the dark side. Enter a certain non-Force user, Jagged Fel. He may be the one pilot who can outfly Jaina – but he’s also the son of Soontir Fel and a born-and-raised Imperial. By the book Enemy Lines: Rebel Dream, Jaina has shaken off her darker emotions but not her feelings of isolation. After taking command of her own squadron, into which Jag volunteers, an antagonistic working relationship is formed that is very reminiscent of the early Han-Leia dynamic. For all the galactic-level peril within the New Jedi Order, Aaron Allston manages to get fans’ hearts beating in sheer joy just after Jaina and Jag both have a brush with death. I don’t think I can do the moment justice with a description, so how about I just share?
[Jaina] leaned against him, a half collapse, her legs no longer willing or able to bear all her weight, and though she did not sob, her tears ran down her face and soaked into his uniform.
“I won’t go anywhere,” [Jag] said.
“Why won’t you go anywhere?”
“Because I don’t want to.” He tilted his head down and hers up, and suddenly she was kissing him, holding him tight enough to cause a vacuum weld.
Her confusion didn’t disappear, but it was joined by a soaring sensation, as though she’d just taken off and left her X-wing behind. There was also an abrupt relief of pressure, unbearable pressure that she had never felt descending upon her, had never noticed until it was gone. (pages 246-247)
Now, don’t you feel better for that little storytelling beat?
I know there are a lot more fabulous kisses in Star Wars and we’d love for you to share your favorites. A special thanks to my friends at the Cantina, who gladly helped me research for this post.
There is a special little reason FANgirl readers might want to hop over to Suvudu and check out my cross-post of this blog… it’s a surprise worth the looksie.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.